Beginning your journey into the IP Telephony world

Dave Schulz has been involved in networking and security for over 24 years.  Working for a reseller in the Midwest, his experienced has varied from installation/support, consulting and management to contracting for an enterprise data center.  Currently, Dave teaches voice technology for Skyline Advanced Technology Services.  Dave has certifications in CCNP, CCDP and CCVP.

It is my pleasure to address everyone out there in the network world this week!  During the course of this week’s articles, I hope to offer some insights and suggestions for those interested in breaking into the world of IP Telephony.  

IP Telephony has experienced a growing interest over the past number of years, with a growth rate that is unprecedented by any other single technology.  Therefore, your desire to embark on this journey to discover voice technology is a great choice that will reap great benefits….both for your career and for your overall network knowledge and understanding.

To begin, it is essential that an engineer develops a good foundation for study and learning, no matter what technology they desire to learn.  I started my career as a “router-switch” guy, and focused later on security, and then voice.  Throughout these changes, in focus and technology, I have gained some invaluable knowledge in learning that I believe will help you in your personal pursuits.  Therefore, I would like to share five simple points to help you in this exciting field of IP Telephony. 

The first point to learning a technology is… Learn how to study.  Good study habits are one of the most important traits any engineer or consultant needs to have in the industry today.  There is too much information (and too much to know), and knowing what to study, and, how to study are key elements of success.  As an engineer, it is easy to “know the right commands”, without knowing the technology.  There are many engineers that know the commands to make something work, but don’t understand the technology behind them.  Don’t fall trap to this!  Learn the technology.  Back in the day, I used to subscribe to all of the various networking magazines (when paper was the only way to send them out).  I remember tearing out articles on various subjects that I wanted to focus.  I would read them, underline points, study them and keep them in a file.  Now, we have better tools available (such as, KeyNote or TreePad) to track information.  So, as you study and learn new things…..write them down and keep good files.

Our second point to learning is…..Learn from everyone.  There are a lot of experts in the field of networking.   Learn from them by reading their articles, read their books and attend conferences and training sessions whenever possible.  Make the most of every opportunity. 

Thirdly, and this may seem like a strange one….  Don’t be too quick to ask for the answers, until you do the research.   We remember better when we have to “work” for it, by looking it up, or, “wrestling” with the solution in the lab….. rather than if someone just tells us the answer.  In my voice classes, if a student is struggling in a lab exercise…. Rather than giving the answer, I will ask them, “Do you want a challenge, or, do you want the answer”.  Most will accept the challenge.  In which case, I usually give a hint.  And, when they find the answer…..they are excited, encouraged and, most importantly…..they remember it! 

Our forth point for learning is…..  Use the documentation that is available on the web, specifically the Cisco DocCDs (www.cisco.com/univercd).  There is invaluable information here on every technology and product that Cisco supports.  I have known many engineers that ignore this site and do not use the various resources that are available.  You may have said, “I tried that, and it is too hard to find anything”.  Be patient, it will come to you with practice!  It is all there…. waiting to be discovered!  You need to get comfortable with this site.  There are a number of other references that I will point out in the next coming articles.

Finally, the last point here on learning is…. Never, never, never give up!  Yes, there is a lot to know.  And yes, it takes time.  However, if you already have a background in routing, switching or security, this will help you immensely in learning IP Telephony.   I achieved the CCNP/CCDP/CCSP certifications before I ever started down the IP Telephony path.  My networking background has been a solid foundation I have drawn from on many occasions …. even working in IP Telephony.  Take it one step at a time, be disciplined in your study and try to learn something new every day.  I have heard someone say, that if a person spends one hour a day in study; they will be an expert in that subject within five years.  Be encouraged!  You can do it! 

I hope these five simple points will help you in your journey.  After all, it is a journey, not a destination, in which you always keep learning.  In the coming articles, we will go deeper on these points to help set you on the path of good study, learning and breaking into the world of IP Telephony! 

Text chat with Wendell Odom live tomorrow, 2 p.m. eastern. Log on here at the advertised time

I've spent the majority of the last 15 years teaching, consulting, and writing about networking technologies in general and Cisco products in particular. At this chat, I will answer your questions on certifications, training, Cisco technology and anything else you want to talk about -- Wendell.

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